The dread pirate Richards, scourge of straight society and rock icon, bares all—including a fang or two.
The Rolling Stones rhythm guitarist—and, we learn, principal songwriter—Richards has already set tongues wagging, giant red ones or otherwise, with leaked bits and pieces of his memoir, most notably the extensive, extremely bitchy complaints about Mick Jagger. “I used to love to hang with Mick,” he writes, “but I haven’t gone to his dressing room in, I don’t think, twenty years. Sometimes I miss my friend. Where the hell did he go?” His fellow Glimmer Twin may not miss him so much upon learning Richards’s assessment of his soul (and genitalia). He also tears down another Mick, this one Mick Taylor, former Stones guitarist, who left the band without Keith’s permission: “You can leave in a coffin or with dispensations for long service, but otherwise you can’t.” Others receive gentler treatment, among them Gram Parsons, Rolling Stones heart and soul Ian Stewart and keyboard wizard Billy Preston (who, we learn, “was gay at a time when nobody could be openly gay”). Surveying the living and the dead, Richards admits the improbability of his own survival, though, he notes, most of his excessive behavior is now many decades past. He is much calmer now, particularly after having undergone brain surgery a few years ago. Which does not mean he’s surrendering—part of the joy of this altogether enjoyable, if sometimes mean-spirited, book is the damn-the-torpedoes take on things. Indeed, when he’s not slagging or praising, Richards provides useful life pointers, from how to keep several packs of dogs in different places to the virtues of open guitar tunings. He even turns in a creditable recipe for bangers and mash, complete with a pointed tale that speaks to why you would not want to make off with his spring onions while he’s in the middle of cooking.
“A jury of my peers would be Jimmy Page, a conglomeration of musicians, guys that have been on the road and know what’s what,” Richards growls. Let no mere mortal judge him, then, but merely admire both his well-written pages and his stamina.